Lewisville council approves language revision to charter concerning term limits

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 16, 2018

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

After enduring quite a stir over the last couple of months when it came to possible changes for the town charter and term limits in Lewisville, the Town Council resolved the issue with little fanfare, other than one last debate over the final wording, in last Thursday night’s meeting.

The council approved by a 6-1 vote in what was called a language revision instead of a change to the charter of Section 3-5, Governing Body Limitation on Terms of Office.

Attorney Bo Houff stated previously that the topic came up in a planning meeting with council in January when various issues related to the charter were discussed. He advised them that term limits for municipal council members and mayors are not allowed under the N.C. Constitution and that he was asked to look at the procedure for the possible amendment of a charter provision, which he found in the General Statutes, Section 160A-102.

That eventually resulted in a resolution of intent by the council to set a public hearing, which was held in June, followed by council consideration in the Aug. 9 meeting.

Former mayors and council members stated clearly in that June public hearing that they didn’t want to see any changes to the town charter and term limits, preferring to maintain the traditions of the town although admitting that doing away with term limits was probably not enforceable from a legal standpoint.

Here is the revised language for what was approved in last Thursday night regarding Section 3-5, Governing Body Limitation on Terms of Office: “While term limits for members of municipal governments have been determined unenforceable under the N.C. Constitution, it is the spirit of the original framers of this charter that members of the town’s governing body, whether as mayor or member of the town council, or any combination thereof, are strongly encouraged not to consider seeking re-election or appointment to any office on the governing body for the next two-year term following four consecutive terms on the governing body.”

Houff said that this language was presented to the council in the regular briefing the week before the council meeting, and he read it before councilwoman Sandra Mock made the motion to approve, followed by Ed Smith seconding it.

During the discussion, councilman Robert Greene said that he had something he wanted to add, changing part of the first sentence to state “it is the expectation” instead of “it is the spirit of the original framers of this charter” that members of the town’s governing body…

Since Houff read his version and Greene verbalized his change to part of the wording, there seemed to be some confusion about what was being altered since no council members appeared to have a written copy, electronic version or a slide to view the comparison.

“Since we started discussion on this thing, it’s changed several times during this process,” councilman Fred Franklin said. “Quite frankly at this moment right now, I don’t even know exactly what language I’m voting for because I can’t see it and read it. I’m just exasperated.”

Mayor Mike Horn and councilwoman Marci Gallman both said what Houff read was what was presented at the briefing and the only change was what Greene was proposing.

Franklin then called for a vote on Greene’s substitute motion, and it died for lack of a second. That was followed by a vote on the original motion, which passed by a 6-1 vote.

Greene, who cast the opposing vote, said that his calling for the change in the wording of that one phrase came after the briefing and thought everyone was aware of it. He admitted being surprised that it didn’t gain any support.

A few days prior to the meeting, former council member Ken Sadler sent out a statement on the council voting on the town charter.

“It is my opinion that the council should not change the charter without placing it on the ballot for the citizens to have maximum input,” he stated. “When you consider this and agree, contact members of the council to let them know that they should not take this action but place it on the ballot if it is serious enough to consider a change in the charter. Our current tradition has worked well for the town since its incorporation.”